My initial thoughts on Obama picking Joe Biden

Yes, I know the politcal world has been anxiously awaiting my take on Obama’s pick but I had to sleep on it first. 

Just kidding ;)

Biden and ObamaSeriously, my initial take on BO picking Biden is that from a political perspective (trying not to be too partisan here) he was probably the best of the bunch being considered if you take into account the experience factor.  We know Obama didn’t pick Biden because Biden’s from a “swing state” or “battleground” state. More than anything else, when you look at polls you see that a significant number of voters across the country find Obama’s lack of experience troublesome.  Biden’s 35 years in Congress helps fill that void.   He brings experience dealing with foreign policy issues to the table in a way that Barack Obama’s overseas rock star tour never could.   Republicans may not agree with what Biden has said and done in the past on certain issues, but that’s beside the point.  Obama’s decision here wasn’t based on trying to pull in base Republicans, but moderates on both sides of the aisle and Independents who have been concerned at how wet behind the ears he is.

That said, as soon as the networks started rolling the footage of Biden from years past you almost got the sense that in the coming weeks and months Obama is going to struggle with trying to ‘look’ more presidential than Joe Biden, and may have trouble not looking like the rookie candidate that he is. Biden looks more statesman-like, he’s been around the block in Washington, DC more than a few times and knows how to negotiate with people.  Biden also has a tendency to be his own man – he’s not a guy who is just going to lay down and do whatever the campaign tells him to do and say whatever they want him to say.   It’s not uncommon for him to speak off the cuff, whereas Obama is generally tightly scripted, and pays for it when he goes off message. Not only that, but Biden is not a “change agent” and definitely not a “Washington outsider” – clearly we have a departure here from the established motto of the Obama campaign, a motto which early on stated that “Washington experience is not necessarily the right kind of experience.”

The AP’s Ron Fournier wrote on analysis of Obama’s decision to pick Biden, and suggested that picking Biden shows Obama’s “lack of confidence” in his own ability to stand toe to toe with John McCain:

He picked a 35-year veteran of the Senate — the ultimate insider — rather than a candidate from outside Washington, such as Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas; or from outside his party, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; or from outside the mostly white male club of vice presidential candidates. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t even make his short list.

The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn’t beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden selection is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative — a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.

Democratic strategists, fretting over polls that showed McCain erasing Obama’s lead this summer, welcomed the move. They, too, worried that Obama needed a more conventional — read: tougher — approach to McCain.


Indeed, Obama has begun to aggressively counter McCain’s criticism with negative television ads and sharp retorts from the campaign trail.

A senior Obama adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his boss has expressed impatience with what he calls a “reverence” inside his campaign for his message of change and new politics. In other words, Obama is willing — even eager — to risk what got him this far if it gets him to the White House.

Biden brings a lot to the table. An expert on national security, the Delaware senator voted in 2002 to authorize military intervention in Iraq but has since become a vocal critic of the conflict. He won praise for a plan for peace in Iraq that would divide the country along ethnic lines.

Chief sponsor of a sweeping anti-crime bill that passed in 1994, Biden could help inoculate Obama from GOP criticism that he’s soft on crime — a charge his campaign fears will drive a wedge between white voters and the first black candidate with a serious shot at the White House.

So the question is whether Biden’s depth counters Obama’s inexperience — or highlights it?

After all, Biden is anything but a change agent, having been in office longer than half of all Americans have been alive. Longer than McCain.

Roughly 10 years longer, to be exact.

What’s the McCain campaign’s reaction to the news? Three hours after the 3 AM text message sent out to those who signed up for it went out, the McCain campaign released this video of Biden talking about Obama in the debates, and another clip of Biden talking about McCain:

The transcript (via Ed Morrissey):

ANNCR: What does Barack Obama’s running mate say about Barack Obama?

ABC’S GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You were asked, “Is he ready?” You said, “I think he can be ready but right now, I don’t believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.”

JOE BIDEN: I think that I stand by the statement.

ANNCR: And what does he say about John McCain?

BIDEN: I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off.

Morrissey adds:

The latter quote comes from The Daily Show and answers a Jon Stewart question in 2005. Stewart pressed Biden, who confirmed that he would have felt comfortable as McCain’s running mate.

There are plenty more where that came from. McCain and the RNC are going to be nailing Obama to the wall for the next 2 and a half months with quotes like these from Biden. Keep in mind, though, that Biden and McCain as colleagues have gone to battle numerous times over the years, and I can easily see Biden’s response to the question about what he has said about McCain as something along the lines of, “Well, I’ve said a lot of things to and about McCain, some of it not mentionable on national TV.”

But as to questioning Obama’s lack of experience, Biden will have a tougher time explaining those comments away, especially considering he’s long been a proponent of having experience when serving in the WH, as this ad he ran in 1988 while running for president demonstrates:

Relevant part of the transcript:

“The White House isn’t a place to learn how to deal with international crisis, the balance of power… the economic future of the next generation,” the narrator of Biden’s 1988 ad for the Democratic nomination said. “The president has got to know the territory.”

Not only has Obama given McCain and the RNC a lot to work with, but Biden has, too. The coming weeks will tell us whether or not Biden’s experience will help Obama or whether or not Biden’s criticisms of Obama and praises of McCain will come back to hurt The One.

The moral of the story of Obama’s selection is that he has conceded McCain’s point on experience: Yes, Virginia. In the end, experience really does matter (ahem).

Update 1 – 10:27 AM: Jim Geraghty has the line of the day (h/t: Lorie Byrd):

[Biden’s] mouth will be an absolute time bomb. Will he refer to Delaware as a “slave state” again? Will he discuss who’s behind the counter at 7-11s?


UPDATE: One last thought before bed: Imagine McCain picking Gov. Bobby Jindal. First line at the debate, “Senator, before we begin our debate, let me clarify for you that I don’t work at a 7-11.”

Here’s Biden’s infamous line about 7-11’s:

In thanking a young Indian-American man for the support of his Indian-American group, Sen. Biden touts how Indians are the fastest growing immigrant group in Delaware and says, “You CANNOT go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts without an Indian accent.”


Gonna be a lively next few weeks!

Comments are closed.